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The Aral Sea catastrophe: understanding one of the worst ecological calamities of the last century

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By illuminem briefings

· 2 min read

illuminem summarizes for you the essential news of the day. Read the full piece on or enjoy below:

🗞️ Driving the news: In an increasingly dire climate crisis the Aral Sea, once the world's fourth-largest freshwater lake, has shrunk drastically due to poor irrigation policies and climate change
• Efforts to restore the lake are ongoing but face significant challenges
• The area is now largely desert, with salt-encrusted plains replacing the former lake
• Only the Small North Aral Sea remains, holding just over 10% of the original water

🔭 The context: In the 1960s, the Soviet Union diverted the Aral Sea's inflowing rivers for cotton farming, leading to severe ecological and community impacts 
• Toxic dust storms, biodiversity loss, and local climate changes ensued
• Efforts to restore the lake, such as the Kok-Aral dam, have shown some success

🌍 Why it matters for the planet: The Aral Sea disaster has disrupted local climates, air quality, and agricultural productivity, with global implications for climate change and biodiversity
• It underscores the urgent need for sustainable water management practices to prevent similar ecological collapses globally

⏭️ What's next: Restoration projects continue, involving international cooperation and sustainable practices
• Restoration efforts include constructing dams, planting vegetation, and implementing water-saving technologies
• Investments in water-saving technologies and regional collaboration are crucial for the long-term recovery of the Aral Sea and surrounding areas

💬 One quote: "One of the planet’s worst environmental disasters" (former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon)

📈 One stat: The Kok-Aral dam has expanded the North Aral Sea by nearly 25% since 2005

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